I've spent those hours in a hotel room with dementordelta and snapetoy and treewishes, all of us reading our copies, knowing we wouldn't spoil each other, and there couldn't have been a better way to do it; it was terrific to have that experience.
What did I think? Be aware that these are first impression thoughts--I haven't slept since yesterday. I loved the first chapter like crazy. I was going nuts trying to figure out who the rotating figure was--every time they introduced one of my favourite Death Eaters and it wasn't them (Lucius, Draco, Snape), I would gasp a little in relief.
I loved the escape from Privet Drive, from the Dursleys to the Order to the seven Harry Potters (you know I want art of Fleur!Harry looking lovingly at Bill!Harry) to the battle to OMIGOD HEDWIG NOOOO. Hedwig's death hurt and yet in a way I loved being hurt that badly. (Not so much for another death, as I'll say later.)
After that…truth is, I thought the book turned into a mess. A goofy mess. I was hearing the Benny Hill theme music run through every one of their escapades. I missed Hogwarts. Badly. Hogwarts gave the books structure that this one just lacked for me, and I'm still rather bewildered at how "Eh" I feel over this book. It was as if Rowling had stopped writing Harry Potter and went off to write a new book in a new series, one that had good stuff but was no longer a Harry Potter book. I didn't feel this was the time to introduce a plot's worth of Dumbledore family backstory; I didn't buy the ministry takeover or the underground resistance, really. Harry Potter is Hogwarts and Hogwarts is Harry Potter, and the final battle at Hogwarts did not seem enough to make up for that.
New shit kept cropping up and it not only needed a bloody chart to figure it out (someone will make one soon, I'm sure), but the damn Deathly Hallows were introduced, what, two thirds of the way through? And then turned out OH HAY NOT TO MATTER MUCH REALLY? Ultimately the Horcruxes were, y'know, it. Though I did love Harry using the Elder Wand to fix his wand; that was a lovely final note, but not enough to call the book "The Deathly Hallows" in my opinion. The short fable about the Deathly Hallows is also likely the part of the book I like best/think is the strongest writing. What does that tell you, huh.
I LOVED that Harry was indeed a horcrux oh THANK YOU JO I CALLED IT FROM THE MOMENT DUMBLEDORE EXPLAINED HORCRUXES IN HBP HOOOYES! And while I did not actually want Harry to die I was giddy over Harry going to his death and then apparently dying because it was so damned RIGHT and so damned gutsy of Rowling to go there, after all. And when she saved him my reaction was, "Aw, darn, that was going to be cool if he died!", except that I don't think her saving him was a cheat (she did set it up, all the way back to that gleam in Dumbledore's eye in GoF) and, ultimately, I am happy that Harry is not dead, that I do not have to think of him being dead. That would really have hit me hard, later. And not much later, either.
I sort of like the abundance of deaths because it's a little numbing as to individual deaths, however, I'm truly, truly unhappy Snape did die, as much as I felt it was inevitable. Still wish she could have bucked that convention. I also disliked how swiftly it occurred. Nevertheless Harry did emerge from that with remarkable love for Snape (Albus Severus! :D ) and that helps. Some. The only reason I'm not more wrought about Snape's death is because so much of the book did leave me cold and feeling it wasn't a Harry Potter book. (I was shouting "Where the F**K is Snape??| internally through so much of the book. Goddammit, I wanted more facetime with him, as I'm sure did a lot of fans.)
Snape's loyalties? Am I smug? My ass. It was completely spelled out in HBP; now that Rowling's finished wet-fish slapping us with that one I am two years too tired to be smug.
I didn't like Harry using Unforgivables. Plain and simple no.
Ginny remains a big blank hole in the space-time continuum for me. I feel nothing for her, and nothing for the Harry/Ginny. I felt less for the Ron/Hermione here than I did in HBP, but that's because I felt they were established well enough in HBP and now they're just established and that's not very interesting to watch anymore. Yet I do not actually hate the Harry/Ginny because I don't think I care enough about this book and its conclusion enough to do any actual hating.
THE MALFOYS ARE ALL ALIVE (AND APPARENTLY WTF FORGIVEN??) OH MY GOD THAT PART COULD NOT GIVE ME MORE JOY. YES YES YES THANK YOU ROWLING FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY SELFISH PERSONAL AGENDA. LUCIUS, MY LUCIUS.
What do I think of the epilogue? I think I can still do a hell of a lot of slashing and ficcing even with its inclusion and not going AU at all. I think the Harry/Draco contingent is likely going nuts with joy; I know the fic I want to write for that. I know the Snarry fic I want to write (that's canon-compliant). I know the Harry/Lucius that also is bubbling in my brain ever so deliciously.
I expect fanfiction of these categories to emerge now: epilogue-compliant, epilogue-discarded, and Book 7 AU in general. I dunno, I'm just having a hard time feeling this book was a part of the Potterverse. Not just spoiled by fanfiction but because of the lack of Potter-like structure for most of the book. Have to see what happens with a second reading, sometime soon.
(Who the hell is Teddy Lupin living with if his parents are dead if he's not living with his godfather Harry, then???)
I intend to propose a fest soon, where every fic must start with the line, All had been well, thought Harry.
ETA: At this point, I'm saying what this book needs is a good screenwriter and a good director. And maybe something tighter and more engaging can be made of it. *waits and hopes*